Monday, September 24, 2012

A Mother/Daughter Story of Life

Disclaimer:  Politics have nothing to do with this post.   This summer I posted on my Facebook page a young girl's dilemma and wrote a post about it.   At that time, I received an email from a former student about her mom who tried to abort her when she was 17 but failed.  This post is their story.

I saw a film at the age of 18 about how a fetus develops and it had a profound impact on me.  Remember, I didn't care about natural birth back then, but I knew that pregnancy was a special thing.

I had a friend that got pregnant our freshman year of college and I went with her to the health clinic for a pregnancy test.  As we walked out, I remember saying to her, "Your baby might already have a heartbeat!  That's around day 18!"  She told me to STOP talking about it.  She was going to drive to Lubbock for an abortion.  As naive as I thought I wasn't,  I thought that stuff only happened in the movies.  I couldn't believe I had a friend that was going to have an abortion.  Well, she did, and she was pretty depressed the rest of the school year.  It was pretty awkward after that.  Neither of us knew what to say and it just hung there.   I don't know if she dropped out, transferred to a different school, or what.  I never saw her again.

I am fortunate I never ended up pregnant as a teenager.  I always said it was the only thing that would have made me quit smoking though.  Like I have said before, I was irrational and compulsive as a teenager.  Like Brad Paisley sings, I couldn't "see past Friday night."  I think most teenagers are this way.  They can't see the effects of their actions on others or on their life down the road.  

I work with the 14-15 year old girls at church and one of them made a very mature statement the other day.  She said that she believes that things always work out - if they haven't yet, you just aren't to the end.  I loved that.

I wanted to share this post because I know the daughter in this story.  She is a truly a beautiful person - inside and out.  I know so many other people that are adopted and others that want to adopt.  I believe that life is precious.  And that things can work out with love, patience, and understanding.

Esmeralda’s Story 

I woke up with a high fever, sore throat, and my whole body ached. My mother insisted on taking me to see my doctor. At the doctor’s office they gave me several tests and the nurse came back to tell me that I had strep throat and that it was an easy fix with antibiotics but that she also had some other news. She told me that I was expecting a child. I was excited but scared of the unknown. At the age of 17 I wasn’t sure how I was going to be responsible for a baby. On top of that I was terrified that I was going to disappoint my father who had high hopes for my future. 

While lying in bed crying trying to figure out what I was going to do, my mind was going one hundred miles per hour. I was only 17 and I had my entire life ahead of me. Abortion came to my mind but I immediately dismissed the thought because that was something I could never see myself doing. 

One afternoon when I came home from school my mother had her friend over. When she saw me she asked me if everything was okay because I looked sick. I started to cry and she assured me that she could help me. My mom had already talked to her about my pregnancy. She insisted that it wasn’t a baby yet and she would go with me to a doctor in Mexico who could inject me with a drug that would cause my period to come. I felt relieved by the information she gave me because it made it seem like I wasn’t going to have a real abortion. To me at the time I thought, “well hey it’s just an injection versus the process of an “abortion”...not realizing it was the same thing. 

While waiting in the doctor’s office in Las Flores, Mexico I started questioning myself about whether this was the right thing to do. My mother’s friend continued to assure me that it was not a big deal and that everything would be normal again. When the doctor called me in he didn’t even check how many months I was or my medical history. He told me that the injection was going to cause my period to come. He said I would feel some cramping and discomfort. He said if I started bleeding a lot for me to go to the emergency room. After the first injection I asked the doctor if my period was going to come and then he then told me that he could give me a second injection to make sure. So that’s what we did. The whole process made it seem like there was a problem with my menstrual cycle not the fact that I was pregnant. 

I cried all the way home. 

That evening while lying there waiting I started to feel the discomfort, pain, and cramping. The pain was there but nothing was happening. I kept going to the bathroom but still no period. That’s when regret hit and I started to ask God, “What have I done?” I asked God to forgive me. I felt like it was the wrong decision and that it was irreversible now. While lying there confused I was watching an episode of "The Little House on the Prairie." It was an episode of a lady giving birth. To me that was beautiful and made me realize that it could be okay to have this child. That’s when I began to pray again and said, “Please God let this child live and I will name her Grace.” 

About 4 years ago in a conversation with my daughter I told her that I felt bad because I promised God that I would name her Grace but ended up naming her after Elvis Presley’s wife (Priscilla). LOL Then my daughter proceeded to tell me that I did name her Grace. And I said, “What do you mean by that? And she told me that her middle name Ann meant “Grace.” God is good! 

I have an amazing daughter who is my best friend who has given me a wonderful grandson and is currently pregnant with her second child. But what I’m most proud of is that she has a heart for God that will lead this generation toward its purpose! I believe everyone has a purpose and I hope that this story will help someone make a decision that will allow the life growing in them to have a chance to fulfill their purpose.

My story could have ended just like millions of other women that made the same decision I did. As you read this story I hope that it will encourage you to make the decision that gives life. 

Priscilla’s Perspective
Someone told me that they were shocked that I did not harbor anger towards my mother for going through with an abortion. The fact is, is that she was dealing with so many issues that had nothing to do with me. She was a teenager and thought she was going to be alone and was misinformed about the life growing in her. 

I believe that there are countless women who have made the decision to abort and live with regret everyday of their life. And on top of that are demonized and made to seem like monsters. My mother at 17 was no monster she just did not know what to do. I fully believe in everyone’s right to life, and by some miracle I got to have mine even though from the beginning my right was taken away. Information is key and every women should know that what grows inside them will feel, will love, will marry, have children and dreams just like the women that carries them.  

As someone who shouldn’t be alive, I am so happy that I am! My husband and son and this little baby growing inside me I am sure would second that. My mother lived through being a teen mom and learned as she went. And I know other young women who knew motherhood as teens would not work out for them and made the very brave decision of adoption. I hope that this story will reach the hearts of the conflicted and cause a pause before making a decision that is permanent. 

Thank you to Priscilla, and especially Esmerelda, for sharing your story.  It is sure to touch someone's life and give hope where there may be none. You are both strong women and no matter what someone is going through, your story gives hope that through hard decisions, wonderful things can come to pass.  

Monday, September 17, 2012


A former student asked me recently how to wean her baby.  I've described my experiences many times over the years, but I don't know that I've ever done it here.  I hope this information is helpful and weaning is a process that is not painful for mom or baby.

Women typically have mixed emotions when it comes to weaning their babies from the breast.  They do it for many reasons too.  As usual, I have opinions on this topic, but I appreciate that everyone is in a different boat.

I am fortunate that I've always been able to stay home with my babies.  Well, I take that back.  Our first was born when my husband was a student at Brigham Young University.  I did work for about 3 months, but when we went on a week-long trip to Seattle, I didn't take a pump and he didn't have any bottles.  When we returned and I went to work, my husband called me in the middle of my shift -- freaking out -- that Daymon wouldn't take a bottle no. matter. what.  I always say that's a smart baby that insists on the breast!  If that's true, I had a genius on my hands!  David said he'd rather work and go to school full time than deal with that again!

My children all breastfed for varying lengths of time:
1st baby - 15 months
2nd baby - 19 months
3rd baby - 24 months
4th baby - 28 months

It should be noted when they all started solid food too:
1st baby - 5 months (ate everything except bananas)
2nd baby - 6 months (very picky eater, spewed everything back at me, meals were messy)
3rd baby - 9 months (just wasn't ready to eat till then, ate table food, not much baby food, not very picky)
4th baby - 12 months (wouldn't eat anything, didn't like the texture and would spit everything out, it wasn't for lack of trying to give her food that she started this late)

The one thing they all had in common was that I never "forced" them to wean.  With the first two babies, as they got older, they would eat food, play, and nurse occasionally.  I let them nurse whenever they showed interest.  It was so easy.  Perfect temperature and I always had it with me.  Breastfeeding is the easiest parenting "tool" I had.  It fixed everything.  Crying, temper tantrums, tiredness.  I honestly don't know how I would have parented if I had given my babies bottles.  It just seems so much harder.

Weaning was something that just happened naturally.  They got older and interested in other things.  They ate table food.  Eventually, we were down to just nursing to go to sleep, or first thing in the morning.  With my son, his last "feeding" was at 2:00 in the afternoon, during "Days of Our Lives".  I really wanted him to nurse so I could watch/hear my show!  He wanted to be on the floor playing.  One day I realized it had been 4 days since he had nursed.  I pumped a bit for relief and never experienced "let down" again.  It was over.  It wasn't painful because it was gradual.  My little boy was growing up and it was OK.  It was exciting to see him grow up.

Every child is different, of course.  So is every mom.  My 3rd baby was 2 and I felt like I was in a "window" to stop nursing.  I didn't want to nurse till she was 3 or 4.  I have a close friend that breastfed one of hers till 3 1/2 and she said she had wished she had weaned during the "2-year window".  I actually had a conversation with Abby about it and she agreed that she was done.  The nursing that was hardest for her was the morning nursing.  On day 3, she woke up at 5:00 a.m. starving!  David fed her lots of food and we went back to sleep!

I never experienced let-down again, didn't get engorged, babies weren't crying to be nursed.  It was painless.  Another close friend encouraged her 2-year-old with "drinking yogurts," something he loved to have, but was reserved for special occasions.  She wasn't telling him NO to nursing, but YES to the yogurt drinks.

The process should be gradual and as natural as possible.  It's exciting to see them grow.  It's a little bittersweet, but isn't the entire process.  They very likely won't remember nursing, no matter what age they wean.  For a long time, Darcy remembered laying down with me to nurse for naps, but she doesn't anymore.

In fact, our children will have very few memories from being little, but as mothers, we will remember breastfeeding our babies and nurturing them as they grow.  Enjoy every moment.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Media Portrayal of the Labor Day Rally for Change

Nearly 10,000 women, men, and children attended the National Rally of Change by Improving Birth in 110 cities across 45 states in the US on Labor Day.  It was the largest women's rights rally in decades.  Expect more to come in the next few months.  The work is only beginning!

Rally at Medical Center of Arlington, TX 

Most rallies did get some media attention.  People say that some attention is better than no attention, but some of the attention perpetuated the problem!  Check out one of our media spots from Arlington, TX:

I don't want to nit-pick it to death -- and we are grateful for the coverage -- but when the anchor/reporter makes comments like "...They are calling for change in maternity care that shifts away from inductions involving  drugs and c-sections to, what they say, are safer methods of delivery..." it makes us sound like we are just making stuff up.  She kept calling it the Birth Change/Method Movement, which I thought was funny.

I sincerely don't understand why the media has to make birth advocates look ridiculous and on the fringe.  All the media clips make birth look so scary and the women look like they are beyond miserable.  Who wouldn't want an epidural after watching these clips!?

Take the clip here where the woman is screaming in one long tone.  The reporter's voice-over is actually valuable information that is pertinent to our cause, but you a) can't hear it because of the yelling, and b) can't take it seriously because who would ever want to have a natural birth if this is what you might sound like?!

The topic of birth makes people so uncomfortable that they have to make fun of it, or show "funny" movie clips to get through it.  I believe that is part of the bigger problem here.  No one wants to have a serious conversation about birth.

Abbey and I actually spent quite some time with a couple of reporters discussing some really pertinent issues.  Abbey, a VBA3C (we had 3 of them at our rally!) , gave these reporters lots to work with as far as VBAC myths, but none of that made it onto the news.  I really believe that people just don't want to know.

I'll leave you with the other media clip, which was only 49 seconds, but at least we didn't look like we are on the fringe, mostly because I told the reporter we aren't trying to take away anyone's epidural with our rally!  If they only knew...

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Birth is Just One Day" -- Right?

In honor of productions of "Birth", a play by Karen Brody, and BOLD (Birth On Labor Day) performances going on across the country, I thought I'd write a few paragraphs about something I've been talking about with a few people this week.  For the last two years, the Tarrant County Birth Network has put on a huge, amazing BOLD production, which made us a ton of money. (This year our September advocacy is participating in The National Rally for Change on Labor Day.)  

I've read the "Birth" script each year and seen the play numerous times.  There's a line repeated several times in the play in reference to birth -- each time in a different tone -- "It's only one day."

I have an acquaintance who is pregnant with twins, and without going into lots of detail, her entire focus is on getting the babies out alive.  She struggled with infertility for years and is, understandably, thrilled to be pregnant.  She is, however, convinced that the babies will have IUGR (Inter-Uterine Growth Restriction) if they stay in the womb past 35 weeks.  I know, I know, before your head explodes, take a deep breath.  Breathe out.  In and out. 

It's very hard to convey to a mom-to-be that it does matter how the baby gets here.  All of us want a healthy baby and mama -- that goes without saying -- but I'm so tired of this potentially beautiful journey being walked in fear.  She's already planned a c-section.  That fight is lost and is a whole 'nother story.  It ain't happenin'.  Don't waste your breath. 

But it does matter how a baby starts out its new life here on Earth.  Let's play a game for a minute:  If a baby is born at 33 weeks, it'll be roughly 3 pounds.  It took 33 weeks to grow a 3-pound baby that will look like a normal - just small - baby.  So, in approximately 7 weeks, the baby will likely more than double his/her weight.  Have you seen the pictures of a baby's brain at 35 weeks vs. 40 weeks?  It is remarkable. 

Women are often put on diets and told not to gain any more weight in the last trimester.  This can be devastating to a growing baby's brain development.  Mom needs cholesterol and good fats in her diet to help the baby grow normally. I wrote a post about prematurity based on Dr. Lucky Jain's research, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak a few years ago at the Controversies in Childbirth Conference.  There are many issues with forcing a baby out.  But it's not all about the physical side effects of keeping a baby in the womb. 

"It's only one day", right?  WRONG!

I know a sweet mom that had her first baby at 30 weeks and the baby was in the NICU for weeks, thankful he survived.  Her second baby, miraculously, made it to 36 weeks and she had the homebirth she dreamed of.  In her own words, she didn't know what she missed out on the first time until she had a different experience with her second.  Of course, in a situation like this, there's nothing you can do, but in so many cases, there is!  Like the mom insisting on a c-section at 35 weeks to prevent something that is very likely not even going to happen!  The benefits of the babies staying in the womb greatly outweigh any (imagined) risk.

I've seen women so greatly affected by their births, it changed who they were and who they became.  I am one of those women.  I've been a childbirth educator for nearly a decade.  You can imagine that I have all kinds of people in my class over the years.  I have seen shy, insecure women sitting in my class who can barely make eye contact.  Through the course of the classes -- and ultimately their births -- they are transformed into these amazing, powerful, confident, outspoken women.  

No, birth is not "just one day".  "You will always remember how you felt - or were made to feel - on the day you give birth."  I have no idea who said that or where I heard it (please share if you happen to know), but I've carried that in my back pocket for years. 

Birth matters. The end.